How effective is Virginia’s smoking ban?
On Dec. 1, 2009, bars and restaurants across Virginia were ordered to put out their cigarettes or renovate their buildings to accommodate non-smokers. A year and a half later, how effective is the ban?
Under the smoking ban, no establishment that sells food can allow smoking, unless it has a separate smoking area, with a door between the smoking and non-smoking sections, and at least one entrance that opens into the non-smoking area.
Initially, a number of bars refused to comply with the law. Many smokers, like Virginia Commonwealth University junior David Turko, a self described “barfly,” objected to the ban.
“When you’re a smoker, you go to a bar and drink,” Turko said. “They go together like milk and cookies.”
He said a few places, like Bandito’s and Joe’s Inn, still allow smoking. But workers at both bars said they are now in full compliance with the law.
“We have all the required facilities,” said Tina Kaftaris, a bartender at Joe’s Inn. “We have separate smoking facilities with its own heating and cooling, circulation and entry.”
Health officials say that while most restaurants are in compliance, the law is difficult to enforce, because the punishment is just a $25 fine, and police are reluctant to spend their time pursuing such a small amount.
“The way the law was originally written … the most a person could be fined was $25. For the police to respond to a call, send an officer out there, write up somebody and go to court, the cost of that would be far over $25,” said John Shellenberg of the Hampton Health Department.
“I am unaware of any police department in the state that has actively enforced the smoking ordinance.”
But Shellenberg says he has found a new way to enforce the ban: persuading the Alcoholic Beverage Control board to make compliance with the smoking ban a condition of a restaurant’s liquor license.
In one case, Shellenberg said, “The agent wrote up a violation against the owner, against his ABC license; we had the hearing; and the eventual outcome was the hearing officer found them guilty of violating it. They were given a choice – either a [$500] fine or a suspension of their ABC license for a week.”
According to Shellenberg, one bar already has been fined and is now working to comply. He hopes the other holdouts will follow.
“One of the remaining places has already voluntarily decided to stop smoking in their establishment and pursue compliance,” Shellenberg said. “We have two that have not, that we have sent 30-day notices to, that unless they do get in compliance, we will work with the ABC again and violate their ABC license.”
Many bartenders say that despite their initial reluctance, the smoking ban hasn’t been a problem, and they’re glad it’s there.
“It’s a pain in the ass to have to go outside to smoke during the winter,” said Chris Merkin, a bartender at Empire Lounge. “But it’s nice being able to work as a bartender and not come home with black boogers.”
Gary Hagy, director of the Virginia Department of Health’s Division of Food and Environmental Services, says that overall, the law has been extremely successful.
“Since the bill went into effect, we’re now at 98 percent of restaurants are in compliance with the law,” Hagy said. “I think when we have the record showing 98 percent of our restaurants are in compliance, that’s a pretty good success there.”
What Does the Smoking Ban Say?
Any establishment that serves food must:
Post “No Smoking Signs” clearly and conspicuously
Remove all ashtrays and smoking paraphernalia from the non-smoking areas
Make sure at least one entrance from the outside leads directly into the non-smoking area
If smoking is allowed, restrict it to a separate area with a separate ventilation system
Moreover, no staff members may be required to work in the smoking section
Citizen Staff Reports 12/16/2013
Virginia Blood Services (VBS), the sole supplier of blood for more than 20 hospitals throughout the state of Virginia, is in need of blood donors to help replenish the local blood supply over the holidays.
A decline in blood donations is typical during the winter months as people become busy with holiday activities and travel. Patient needs remain steady, however, making it important for people to visit a VBS donor site or mobile drive to give blood. > Read more.
In Varina, one of the most anticipated events of the season is approaching. The 19th Annual Big Toy Parade will return on Dec 14, offering a “homey,” small-town feel that helps elicit holiday spirit among participants and spectators alike.
The parade, which begins at 3 p.m., is sponsored by the Battlefield Ruritans and Henrico County Parks and Recreation and is held in conjunction with the James River Boat Parade. It is led by a grand marshal along Old Osborne Turnpike and ends at the Osborne Boat Landing, where hundreds of community members gather to await nightfall and the arrival of lighted boats, concluding a festive holiday celebration. > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 12/03/2013
The region's two premier youth soccer organizations – the Richmond Kickers and Richmond Strikers – have partnered to create Richmond United, a cost-free U.S. Soccer Development Academy program designed to serve the most talented players in the region. The arrangement marks the first time in U.S. Soccer Development Academy history that two member clubs have united their respective Academy programs.
Slated to begin play in the fall of 2014, Richmond United will field U13/14, U15/16 and U17/18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams. The teams will train and play home games at two of the top soccer specific complexes in the nation, Ukrop Park and Striker Park. > Read more.
It’s the final weekend before Christmas – but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare! Relax with half-a-million twinkling lights, enjoy Theatre IV on Tour’s production of “A Christmas Carol” or experience the 11th annual “Miracle of Christmas – Live at the Metro Richmond Zoo.” Another way to relax before the Big Day is with a good book. You can find a vast array of books, covering many genres, and meet authors at the Celebrate with a Book event on Saturday. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
A number of Henrico students are performing in the Richmond Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, which runs through Dec. 23. Pictured above, left to right are: back row – Elizabeth Sjovald (Mother Ginger), Deema Meguid, Maya Link (Mogi top) and Sophie Rounds (Mother Ginger) and front row – Sarah Echols (Chinese) and Carter Echols (Chinese). > Read more.
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